As we heal and move on, we must interrogate debacle of results day

IEBC vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera (centre) addresses the press at Serena on August 15, 2022. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The patience of Kenyans has been stretched to the limit during the past one week.

Since the August 9 General Election, the days and nights have been long, both for the candidates and the rest of the country.

There will be debate and many questions in the coming days over the election outcomes, especially with the drama in the final moments before declaring the presidential results.

It is in such moments that a society must find the true soul of its being and rise to its highest ideals of probity and patriotism.

Seeking wisdom from the holy scriptures, the Bible in the book of 1st Chronicles 13:32 refers to the son’s of Issachar as men who understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for the nation of Israel.

Further, in Ecclesiastes, the wise King Solomon chronicles a season and a time for everything. As a country, households and individuals, the world around us does not stop simply because we have an election, or we cannot agree on winners and losers.

In an article the weekend before election day, I argued that this nation must not bleed for anyone to assume power. It is time to find the best in each one of us individually and collectively as a people.

Ours is a democracy that confers power and leadership based on the voice of the majority. The minority are also granted a chance to have their say. As indicated previously, three of the presidential candidates had to lose for Kenya to get its 5th president.

This is not to take away the democratic principles that underwrite competitive politics. The reason why the country invests heavily in elections is to grant each one of us the right to run for any electoral office we may desire, or have a say on who our leaders will be for the next five years.

Drawing lessons from the nation’s troubled history, the framers of the Constitution provided robust mechanisms to resolve any disputes that may arise in the exercise of these rights.

Rules of decorum

It is the solemn duty, responsibility and obligation of each one of us to utilise and exploit the avenues provided in law, established traditions and basic rules of decorum to resolve any grievances we may have.

The questions we must now ask are: One, what is the right thing we must do to preserve the unity and dignity of the nation? Two, how do we advance our socio-economic welfare as we safeguard our democracy and public interest? Three, going forward, what standards of probity must we demand of State and public officials during their selection and tenure in office?

On the first question, households have been undergoing unprecedented economic turmoil emanating from failed economic policies, the Covid-19 health crisis, externalities from the Ukraine-Russia crisis, and the cyclical economic slow-down that occurs every election season.

The election week and the tallying process have ‘eaten’ one week from our economic production and two weeks from the annual school calendar. Our children neither have political affiliations nor do they vote, but we owe them a duty of care especially considering the lengthy school disruption in 2020.

Let the political combatants fight their battles while bearing in mind their obligations to our children and future generations for whom we sacrifice and nurture this democratic space in the first place.

As president-elect William Ruto said in his acceptance speech, we will need all hands on deck if we are to recover from the shaky economic season we are in. We must never forget the lives we have lost over disputed elections. Even now a family is grieving after the baffling death of Embakasi East Constituency Returning Officer Daniel Musyoka.

Our founding fathers and the heroes of the struggle for multi-party democracy shed enough blood for this nation; we cannot continue shedding more innocent blood with our modern robust governance systems.

African tradition views human life as sacred; all the holy scriptures uphold the same values. Let us all appeal to our better selves and move this country forward.

There have been sustained campaigns to end violence as witnessed in recent elections. But it is an unfortunate reality that to many of our politicians, the end justifies the means.

No one can claim to honour democracy without agreeing to pay its price. There can only be one president, governor, Member of Parliament, senator, woman representative and Member of County Assembly at any given time.

While elections are emotive, they must never take away our personal responsibilities. It does not matter who the winner is; each one of us has to bear their financial, family and civic obligations.

No politician will provide for our families or pay our medical bills and taxes to the State. For the leaders who won, we can only demand of them to serve us according to the mandate of their new offices.

The economy has to flourish for each one of us to prosper. If the economy does not create opportunities, then we won’t be able to employ our young men and women. There cannot be business if the economy is in turmoil.

There is a lot that we do not know about regarding what was going on behind the closed doors of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Without pre-empting the legal avenues laid out in law, and whatever secrets the four dissenting commissioners may spill as promised, there can never be any doubt about the standards of decorum expected of State and public officers.

Preserve public order

In government, and any big organisation for that matter, order is predicated on bureaucracy. The freedoms and rights within a bureaucracy can only be exercised to the extent that they preserve order, public interest, and the interests of their shareholders or stakeholders.

Any dissenting views must be channeled through laid-down structures established within the bureaucracy. Our Constitution, the electoral laws, and administrative order have no vacuums to the best of my knowledge.

The fundamental questions that will have to be answered candidly are: for what purpose and to what end did the four commissioners issue such alarming aspersions on the presidential results shortly before they were announced?

Did they carefully weigh the mood of the country and what consequences their statement may have on our fragile post-election stability? What should we make of the results they announced themselves? Given a similar debacle in 2017, what lessons did we learn?

The job of IEBC commissioner is a sacred one that demands the highest probity possible. The decisions of the commission and its officers preserve not only our sacred right to vote, but also confer sweeping powers to the winners and pain to the losers.

Such responsibility must never be treated with the sort of casualness the nation and the world witnessed at Serena. I may be wrong, but once the dust settles down, the people must demand a full account and justice over that presser.